A Clinton match-up is highly likely to be an unmitigated electoral disaster, whereas a Sanders candidacy stands a far better chance. Every one of Clinton’s (considerable) weaknesses plays to every one of Trump’s strengths, whereas every one of Trump’s (few) weaknesses plays to every one of Sanders’s strengths. From a purely pragmatic standpoint, running Clinton against Trump is a disastrous, suicidal proposition.
– From February’s post: Why Hillary Clinton Cannot Beat Donald Trump
The best “why Hillary Clinton can’t beat Donald Trump” articles tend to be written by liberal-leaning Bernie Sanders supporters. These people can’t stand Trump, yet find it impossible to ignore the obvious flaws and rampant cronyism inherent in Her Majesty. This dislike of both frees such thinkers from distracting bias and provides for refreshing analysis and a unique perspective on 2016.
The latest example of such commentary comes courtesy of author Anis Shivani, writing at Salon. The piece is titled, Donald Trump is Going to Win: This is Why Hillary Clinton Can’t Defeat What Trump Represents, and it explores a less discussed angle of the psychic differences between the two candidates in the eyes of voters. I found the opening paragraphs of the piece to be the most interesting:
The neofascist reaction, the force behind Trump, has come about because of the extreme disembeddedness of the economy from social relations. The neoliberal economy has become pure abstraction; as has the market, as has the state, there is no reality to any of these things the way we have classically understood them. Americans, like people everywhere rising up against neoliberal globalization (in Britain, for example, this takes the form of Brexit, or exit from the European Union), want a return of social relations, or embeddedness, to the economy.
The Trump alliance desires to remake the world in their own image, just as the class representing neoliberal globalization has insisted on doing so. The difference couldn’t be starker. Capitalism today is placeless, locationless, nameless, faceless, while Trump is talking about hauling corporations back to where they belong, in their home countries, fix them in place by means of rewards and retribution, like one handles a recalcitrant child.
Trump is a businessman, while Mitt Romney was a businessman too, yet I predict victory for the former while the latter obviously lost miserably. What is the difference? While Trump “builds” things (literal buildings), in places like Manhattan and Atlantic City, places one can recognize and identify with, and while Trump’s entire life has been orchestrated around building luxury and ostentatiousness, again things one can tangibly grasp and hold on to (the Trump steaks!), Romney is the personification of a placeless corporation, making his quarter billion dollars from consulting, i.e., representing economic abstraction at its purest, serving as a high priest of the transnational capitalist class.
In the present election, Hillary Clinton represents precisely the same disembodiedness as Romney, for example because of her association with the Clinton Foundation. Where did the business of the state, while she was secretary of state, stop, and where did the business of global philanthropy (just another name for global business), begin, and who can possibly tell the difference? The maneuverings of the Clinton Foundation, in the popular imagination, are as arcane as the colossal daily transactions on the world’s financial exchanges.
Everything about Clinton—and this becomes all the more marked when she takes on the (false) mantle of speaking for the underclass, with whom she bears no mental or physical resemblance—reeks of the easy mobility of the global rentier class. Their efficacy cannot be accounted for, not through the kind of democratic process that is unfolding before our eyes as a remnant of the American founding imagination, her whole sphere of movement is pure abstraction.
In this election, abstraction will clearly lose, and corporeality, even if—or particularly if—gross and vulgar and rising from the repressed, will undoubtedly win. A business tycoon who vigorously inserted himself in the imaginations of the dispossessed as the foremost exponent of birtherism surely cannot be entirely beholden to the polite elites, can he? Trump is capital, but he is not capital, he is of us but also not of us in the way that the working class desires elevation from their rootedness, still strongly identified with place and time, not outside it. After all, he posed the elemental question, Where were you born?
While we’re on this topic, I think the Twitter habits of the two candidates also speaks volumes. If you follow @ and @, you’ll know that these two accounts couldn’t be more different. Hillary’s account is so calculated and phony, it’s actually hard not to constantly mock. It frequently tweets in fluent Spanish, and even tweets while she’s onstage speaking during a live debate. The only genuine thing about it is that the content is as sterilized, vacuous and stuffy as her public persona.
In contrast, Trump’s Twitter handle provides endless entertainment. It doesn’t feel formal or overly calculated, and no matter what you think of him or the content itself, it’s extremely refreshingly to see a leading candidate for the U.S. Presidency confident enough in himself to just let it fly on social media for everyone to see. In fact, his Twitter account is so legendary, it’s been a subject of consistent speculation. In April’s article, How Donald Trump Tweets, the New York Timesnoted:
Love him or hate him, you have to respect the fact the guy actually tweets for himself.The exact source of Donald Trump’s tweets has long been a matter of speculation. The tweets are so consistent with his persona that it’s hard to imagine anyone else coming up with them. But where in his busy schedule of making America great again does Mr. Trump find time to tweet?At a CNN town hall moderated by Anderson Cooper on Tuesday, he cleared things up. “During the day, I’m in the office, I just shout it out to one of the young ladies who are tremendous,” Mr. Trump said. “I’ll just shout it out, and they’ll do it.” After about 7 PM, however, he operates Twitter himself.
Now let’s get back to Anis Shivani’s article. His conclusion is that Trump will win because at least he speaks to the angst of a certain disenfranchised segment of the population, while Hillary Clinton basically believes everything is fine and promises she’ll continue along Obama’s destructive path. He also notes that nothing will really change under Trump and he’s basically just paying lip service to the underclasses.
Unfortunately, I tend to agree. As I noted in the concluding lines to last week’s post, Donald Trump’s True Colors Emerge as He Snuggles up to Wall Street:
Trump’s support of repealing Dodd-Frank tells you all you need to know. A Trump Presidency will see Wall Street felons who should be in prison, running as wild and free as ever.Now here’s Anis Shivani:
He will be the same thing to distressed working class whites that Obama was to the black community. A fake messiah and a shyster.
For the market to exist, as classical economics would have it, there must be free buyers and sellers, competitive prices, a marketplace that remains fixed and transparent, and none of these elements exist anymore in the neoliberal economy, which seeks to stamp out the last vestiges of resistance in the most forgotten parts of the world. In fact, the market has created—in the ghost towns of the American Midwest, for example—a kind of sub-Saharan desolation, in the heartland of the country, all the better to identify the completeness of its project in the “successful” coastal cities. Trump is a messenger from the most successful of these cities, and his very jet-setting presence, in the middle of empty landscapes, provides an imaginary access point.
When Trump’s masses see Clinton tacking to the middle—as she undoubtedly will, rather than go for the surefire path to victory by heading left, by picking Bernie Sanders for example—the more they will detest it, which will push her only further in their direction, not in the direction that can bring victory. Clinton, because of her disembodied identity in the placeless global economy, cannot make a movement toward the direction of reality, because the equations would falter, the math would be off, the logic would be unsustainable. And that is the contradiction that the country can easily see, that is the exposed front of the abstract market that will bring about its supposed reckoning in the form of Clinton’s defeat.
But the reckoning, again, will be pure fiction. Trump is not a fascist father figure, he is not the second coming of Mussolini, he is the new virtual figure who is as real as reality television, which is even more recessive and vanishing compared to Ronald Reagan’s Hollywood fictions. The field of action in which Trump specialized for a long time before the nation, as dress rehearsal for the current (and final) role, was one where, at least to outward appearances, the presence of surplus capital was acknowledged and taken for granted, and aspirants competed to know more about it and to desperately work on its behalf.
But to get back to death, Trump’s campaign has been successful so far, and will surely be victorious in the end, because he is the only one who has brought death back into the discourse.
The only people identified with death today on the global scene—the only people not part of the market and not able to be part of it—are terrorists, undocumented immigrants, the homeless and the mentally ill, those who have no claims to success in the market. Trump’s people want to make sure—from the purest feeling of shame known to politics—that they are not of the unchosen ones, they want to enforce a radical separation between their kind of shame, which they think is unwarranted, by excluding illegal competition, by constructing literal walls to keep out the death-dealers, by overruling the transnational party elites who have sold them out.
Trump is vocally identifying the death aura, prodding the working class to confront the other, which is as alienated and excluded as itself, but which the working class likes to imagine is the irreconcilable other. By forcing this confrontation he has put himself in the winner’s seat.
Let us note the rise of suicide among white working-class men and women, of all ages. This—like the other deals in death that the market fails to name—is an assertion of independence from the market.
Think again of Trump’s initiation of his campaign with the idea of the wall, and calling those who break through the wall rapists and murderers. And compare it to Clinton’s opening gambit of giving identifiable personalities to the clear winners in the transnational race to acquire and embody capital, paraded one after the other in her first campaign commercial. And then think of the culture warriors, both on the left and the right, as perceiving every threat as a personal attack on their very being, their very existence, no matter how trivial the offense (hence the revealing term “micro-aggressions), exactly as the Trump proletariat reacts to attacks on their identity, as they have been trained to respond after decades of rampant identity politics. Now consider, in the face of these three competing tendencies, the market’s pure victory; because all three games are being played out on its terms, it is the preordained winner. And yet, I would say, Trump must win, he has to win, to give the element he represents, of the three mentioned here, a degree of equality with the other two. The spectacle must be kept interesting after all.
What is common between the “multitudes” who show up for the Trump and Sanders rallies? Both constituencies are rebelling against the empire of capital, the empire of the market (whether the right calls it the New World Order or the left calls it free trade), and they show up naming empire as such. In this election campaign, whoever names the empire of the market wins (Trump, or Sanders had he been able to overcome the barriers erected by the Democratic party), and whoever hides its name (Clinton), loses.
I expect Trump to take a national lead shortly and never relinquish it until the end. It will be easy if he keeps the libertine and destructive aspects of himself in perfect balance, seesawing from one to the other, as he has so far, appealing to an elemental fear in the country, torn apart by the abstraction of the market, to which Clinton has not the faintest hope of responding. He only has to use one distinctively non-misogynist, concretely unifying, morose five-letter word in the debates: NAFTA. A pure market abstraction that has turned out to be not so much an abstraction.